Daffue goes from great lead to major US Open meltdown

Brooklyn, Massachusetts (AP) – MJ Dafoe’s problems began Friday at the US Open on a cheap patch of carpet in a hospitality suite on the left of the 14th fairway.

If only that was the worst of it.

There was nothing about Daffue’s shot off the roof of the hospitality wing that could have predicted his free fall from 6-under par and 3-Shot out of the top ten by the end of his second round. He hit that shot over the fence, then cruised it about 250 yards to the jagged left of the green, even with the pin.

But he missed his first pitch shot and made a bogey. He followed it up with another ghost at #15, then cut a clean ball from a bunker on the green side at #18 to finish with a double ghost there.

The South African shot 2-over 72 and finished his day at minus 1 after spending most of the morning alone in the lead.

“A crazy fight,” said Dafoe. “I am obviously disappointed. But you expect at some point during the week in the US Open, the golf course will come and bite us.”

It’s hardly the worst Dafoe has been through.

a Story on pgatour.com Details the depression and doubt that have been a part of Daffue’s life over the past decade. It all started when his future mother-in-law died in a strange accident. This continued when the financial pressure to make a living from playing golf became almost too much.

Recently, he suffered from a bout of COVID-19. But golf, and life, has gotten better lately. A string of strong Korn Ferry Tour finishes helped him secure his PGA Tour ticket for 2022-23. He finished it in time to play a US Open qualifier that wasn’t originally on his schedule.

He came in at number 296 of the week. Some of the best advice he’s received over the years has come from someone in his country who knows little about US openings. Two-time champion Retief Goosen was Daffue’s mentor.

“He gave me a little advice,” Dafoe said. “He’s not trying to do much. Hit to the middle of the greens. Stay inside and focus on the six feet directly surrounding you.”

DJ decision

Dustin Johnson had no qualms about how he would be received by fans or peers after signing up for big Saudi money to play the LIV Golf series.

Then again, Johnson doesn’t care much.

“I didn’t really notice any difference,” he said after his 3-over-73 left him in the middle of the group at the weekend.

Johnson’s name was the biggest surprise on the roster at the first LIV event outside London, mainly because he’s been golf’s best player over the past decade and he had stated in February that he would stay put. The Daily Telegraph reported that he got $150 million to sign.

Johnson was among those who quit his membership on the PGA Tour, and soon lost his sponsorship with the Royal Bank of Canada.

“It was a tough decision, but I feel very confident in the decision I made,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely happy and looking forward to this week and the rest of the year.”

Johnson goes 16 months without winning, returns to the Saudi International in early 2021, and his world ranking slipped to No. 16.

Hardy’s plan

With the exception of Thursday’s withdrawal, Nick Hardy could be listed as the last player to compete at the US Open. The USGA would have saved a spot should Cameron Champ or JJ Spawn win the Canadian Open, which would have marked their second PGA Tour victory in the past 12 months, thus making them exempt.

They both missed the cut and Hardy was playing. And now he will be among the last players to go into the weekend at The Country Club after rounds 69-68 for 3-under 137.

This is his fourth time at the US Open, and he is already different from the others due to the small number of holes Hardy has played all week. It wasn’t entirely by design. He injured a tendon in his wrist from a gunshot wound in New Orleans. That put him out of action for five weeks, and he said he went 30 days without swinging the baton.

While he fails someone’s vow to find a hobby, the vacation at least taught him to slow down.

“I knew I didn’t need to be outside six, seven, eight hours a day,” he said. “I don’t need to touch a club every day to continue that and keep feeling good.”

There have been times in previous US Openers he would have played 36 or 45 holes in the first round. This week, he played 18 holes on Tuesday and only did light work on Wednesday.

It seems to work.

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Golf writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

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